Showing posts with label Trump White House. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trump White House. Show all posts

March 22, 2017

Ivanka Setting Office at WH Breaks Ethics, Precedents and Anti Nepotism Law







Within hours of Ivanka Trump announcing Monday that she will soon take over a White House office and begin advising her father, several ethical questions about her role emerged.

As an unpaid advisor with no official title, an as-yet-undefined policy portfolio, and West Wing office space, Ivanka Trump’s position will be unprecedented, presidential scholars told VICE News. And her many potential conflicts of interests may force the Trump White House to confront ethical dilemmas that no previous presidency has ever faced.

“I can’t think of anybody in any other administration that had anything like this,” said George Edwards, a professor at Texas A&M University and the editor of an academic journal studying the American presidency.

Adult children of presidents have in the past served in both official and unofficial government capacities, said historian Doug Wead, who has written books about presidents’ children. But in order to avoid anti-nepotism laws, the children were often put on the payroll of the RNC or DNC, Wead said. So while their family ties made them powerful, they were not given the official administration access that Ivanka Trump now possesses.

Even setting aside the fact that her father is the president, Edwards said he couldn’t think of a previous “unofficial, unpaid advisor with an office in the White House.”

Ivanka Trump has noted that, though a Monday statement to Politico focused primarily on how unusual her role will be.


“While there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president [in the West Wing], I will voluntarily follow all of the ethics rules placed on government employees,” she said. Her lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, told Politico that there will likely still be conflicts of interest. (Gorelick did not respond to a request for comment.)

But Gorelick’s acknowledgment of potential ethical problems, and her client’s reassurance that she would avoid them, haven’t necessarily convinced watchdogs.

“We always hope that people follow the rules and don’t do things that they shouldn’t do,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “I would say that the White House staff, up to and including the president, to date have not given us a lot of confidence.”

The opportunities Ivanka Trump will have to benefit her business interests will be “immense,” Bookbinder noted. She and her husband, Jared Kushner, have offered up plans to significantly divest themselves from several assets since her father’s election, according to Bloomberg News, but she still owns the jewelry and fashion brands that carry her name.

And making sure she adheres to the rules that govern more traditional White House personnel could be tricky.

“One of the ways that we enforce ethics rules, conflict of interest rules, is by having records because that’s how you know who talked to whom, who did what,” Edwards explained. But since Trump isn’t technically a government employee, she might not be required to preserve documents of her meetings and calls.

White House officials cannot be compelled to testify in front of Congress, Edwards added, thanks to rules governing the separation of powers between government. Because Ivanka Trump’s situation is unprecedented, it’s unclear if those rules would apply to her.

What is clear, however, is that she has the potential to wield enormous influence.

“Ivanka can never be fired as daughter,” Wead said. “She will always be daughter. And it’s a very powerful asset, that permanency. She will be very powerful in the White House.”

March 20, 2017

Neil deGrasse Tyson”Trump Will Make America Weak,Sick/Stupid”









Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson believes President Donald Trump's first proposed budget could make America "weak," "sick" and "stupid."
"The fastest way to Make America Weak Again: Cut science funds to our agencies that support it," he tweeted Sunday as part of a social media rampage against the President. “The fastest way to Make America Sick Again: Cut funding to the National Institutes of Health." 
"The fastest way to Make America Stupid: Cut funds to programs that support education," Tyson added. "The fastest way to thwart Earth’s life-support systems for us all: Turn EPA into EDA — the Environmental Destruction Agency." 
In his first budget blueprint, the President proposed $54 billion in cuts to large parts of the federal government and popular programs big and small.
Trump's budget would cut off funding entirely for several agencies, including arts, public broadcasting and development groups, and also proposes steep cuts to agencies like the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency.
Nearly every agency will see some sort of cut, with only Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs getting a boost. 
"We can all imagine a land that provides no support for Art. But is that a place you'd want to Live? To Visit? To Play," Tyson tweeted.
"We all want to Make America Great Again. But that won’t happen until we first Make America Smart Again," he added.

LGBT’s Concerned About Hate Crime Prosecutions Under Trump








In the waning days of President Barack Obama's administration, supporters of LGBT rights hailed the first federal hate crime conviction for the killing of a transgender woman in Mississippi. With President Donald Trump now in office, they worry about the future of such prosecutions.

Trump's new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, opposed the 2009 hate crime law when he was a U.S. senator, saying it was overly broad and he thought it was unnecessary to include further protections for gay and transgender people. During his January confirmation hearing, Sessions told fellow senators they "can be sure I will enforce" the law, but some observers wonder about his commitment.

"We really might be looking at a new day under Sessions, and that has huge implications for how the federal government is going to treat violence that is absolutely rampant in the transgender community," said Jordan Woods, a University of Arkansas law professor who studies LGBT legal issues.

Sentencing in the Mississippi case is May 15. With a plea agreement in place, it's unlikely Sessions could change the strategy in this prosecution.

Joshua Vallum, an ex-convict and top-ranking gang member, faces life in prison without parole for killing 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, who was born male but transitioned to a female. Prosecutors say Vallum, 29, and Williamson dated and that he killed his transgender girlfriend because he worried fellow gang members would discover their relationship and kill both of them because gay sex was strictly forbidden by the Latin Kings gang.

Attorney Dru Levasseur of the LGBT rights group Lambda Legal said supporters had a frustratingly long wait for the first federal hate crime prosecution involving a transgender person.

"We waited for many years for the government to finally deploy that law," Levasseur said.

Hate crimes have historically been a priority for the FBI and Justice Department. Investigations are typically initiated by the FBI and the attorney general doesn't need to sign off on each prosecution.

Six Democrats in Congress wrote to Sessions on March 10 to ask the Justice Department to investigate as hate crimes the deaths of seven transgender women this year, including another one in Mississippi.

The Justice Department declined comment.

Crimes motivated by a loathing of sexual orientation or race will often be prosecuted under state hate crime charges, but those vary. Mississippi, for example, doesn't include crimes against transgender people.

Usually defendants will also face charges such as assault or murder, but people are more likely to be convicted in federal court and can sometimes face longer sentences.

In Vallum's case, he pleaded guilty to murder in state court and was sentenced to life in prison, but with a chance of parole. He could get life in prison without parole for his federal guilty plea.

"There's a lot of variability in the willingness of state and local jurisdictions to prosecute," said Rebecca Stotzer, a University of Hawaii professor who has studied violence on LGBT people.

Vallum previously served time for a fake bomb threat at a church. While imprisoned, he joined the Latin Kings gang, going by the name King Chaos. After his release, Vallum met Williamson online and they dated for months in 2014.

In his defense, Vallum initially told sheriff's deputies and later The Sun Herald newspaper that he found out that Williamson had a penis on May 30, 2015 — moments before he killed her. He said he "blacked out" and doesn't remember the crime, a variation of what's known as a "gay panic" or "trans panic" defense.

Prosecutors doubted the claim, in part because the FBI found a cache of gay porn on Vallum's cellphone and because he was charged with indecent exposure in Alabama. Most significantly, Vallum didn't contest evidence in court that he long knew Williamson was transgender.

Federal prosecutor Julia Gegenheimer said during Vallum's plea hearing in December that he began planning to kill Williamson after a friend called him May 28 to say he'd discovered her identity.

Vallum lured Williamson into a car in Alabama and drove her 50 miles (80 kilometers) to his family home near Lucedale, Mississippi, prosecutors said. He shocked her with a stun gun and stabbed her in the body and head with a pocketknife. When she tried to run into the woods, he chased her down and bashed her head with a hammer.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights advocates say heinous attacks like this one should be prosecuted as hate crimes because they spread fear among their community.

Hayley Seymour is a transgender woman who led a vigil for Williamson in Mobile, Alabama, after her death. Seymour didn't know Williamson, but she acted because she grew up nearby.

Williamson had left home, had a tenuous relationship with her parents, and was struggling with a drug habit. She deserved better, Seymour said.

"I know how easily violence can happen and how easily it can be swept under the rug," she said.

She moved to the Atlanta area because being transgender in Alabama was "a nightmare."

Despite fears that the hate crime law would be overused, prosecutions under Obama's administration were relatively few. An Associated Press analysis using data gathered by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University show that 47 people nationwide have been prosecuted using the law, with 37 convictions.

Another 300 people were referred for prosecution, but hate crimes charges were never filed. In at least half those cases, there wasn't enough evidence or prosecutors couldn't prove intent, a key threshold.

Levasseur said that whatever the difficulties, the law protecting LGBT people makes an important statement.

"This law is meant to send the message back that these lives matter," he said.

———

Associated Press News Researcher Monika Mathur in Washington contributed to this report.
 

March 14, 2017

The Trump’s Men Intertwined with Russia




Paul Manafort (employed by Russian Intelligence)




 President Donald Trump’s administration remains under scrutiny over potential ties between his associates and Russia in the run-up to the presidential election. Trump has denied knowing that any of his staff had communications with Russian officials during the campaign. But congressional probes are underway, and the FBI is investigating.
A look at some of the key players:

PAUL MANAFORT

A longtime Republican operative and lobbyist, Mas Mennafort was hired by Trump in March to try to head off attempts by some GOP delegates to prevent Trump from becoming the party’s nominee. He was later elevated to campaign chairman.

Manafort resigned in August following revelations about his firm’s longtime work on behalf of the former pro-Russian ruling political party in Ukrai
ne before it was ousted over alleged corruption. Manafort and a deputy, Rick Gates, had orchestrated a secret lobbying campaign in Washington to obtain positive press coverage of Ukrainian officials and turn people away from supporting Yulia Tymoshenko, an imprisoned rival of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Manafort has denied having any communications with Russian officials. Gates, the deputy, has also been under scrutiny for potential ties to Russia.

MICHAEL FLYNN
 Bannon (wants to break up the US Institutions, except banks-Trump’s whisperer, Flynn (employed by Turkey ties to Russia), Sessions, in charge of Justice the same Dept.who opposed his failed attempt to be a federal judge.

A former military intelligence chief, Flynn delivered a rousing speech attacking Hillary Clinton at the RNC, and was then tapped by Trump to be his national security adviser in the White House. He initially attracted Russia-related attention for a paid speech he once gave in Moscow during a trip in which he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a dinner.

Flynn resigned roughly three weeks into Trump’s administration after it emerged that he’d misled White House officials — most notably Vice President Mike Pence — about his contacts with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI about his telephone conversations with the Russian ambassador, one indication that law enforcement officials were looking into his ties to Russia. Those contacts included a call with Kislyak on the day President Barack Obama’s administration announced sanctions on Russia for meddling in the U.S. campaign. The Obama administration was taken aback when Russia, after first vowing retaliation, did not reciprocate following the sanctions.

Flynn had told Pence and others that he hadn’t discussed the sanctions with Kislyak on the call. He later conceded the issue may have come up, after the Justice Department warned the White House that Flynn could be in a compromised position because his public comments conflicted with what intelligence officials knew, based on recordings of the conversations. The U.S. routinely monitors foreign officials’ communications in the U.S.

Trump learned about the contradiction six days into his presidency but waited three weeks to get rid of Flynn. The White House suggested Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation because he could no longer be trusted.

In recent days, Flynn has attracted fresh scrutiny after registering as a foreign agent for lobbying work he did for a Turkish businessman before Trump’s inauguration. Flynn acknowledged that his work could have aided Turkey’s government.

JEFF SESSIONS

The longtime former senator was nominated by Trump to be attorney general and confirmed by the Senate. Then it emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Kislyak.

That was a problem, because in his Senate confirmation hearing Sessions said he had not spoken to Russians during the campaign. In writing, he said he had not had communications with any Russian officials about the campaign.

Sessions defended himself by saying he’d met with the Russian envoy — once in his Senate office, once on the sidelines of an event at the GOP convention — in his capacity as a senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee, not as part of the campaign. He acknowledged later that he could have been more careful in his answer.

CARTER PAGE



Before serving briefly as a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, Page was an obscure investment banker. Page worked out of Merrill Lynch’s Moscow office for three years and advised on transactions for Gazprom and RAO UES, two Russian entities, according to the website for his current energy investment firm.

He attracted attention for a speech he gave in July at the graduation ceremony for Moscow’s New Economic School. In his remarks, Page was sharply critical of the U.S. and called Washington “hypocritical” for focusing on issues like corruption and democratization in its relations with Russia.
Page also offered contradictory answers about his contacts with Russian officials during his visit. Shortly after the visit, he spoke with Kislyak in Washington.

He was never on Trump’s campaign payroll, and Trump’s team has long sought to distance itself from Page. But Page wrote recently that he was a frequent visitor to Trump Tower, which housed Trump’s campaign offices.
Congressional committees probing Russia’s hacking during the campaign and potential Trump campaign ties have asked Page to preserve materials related to their investigations.

ROGER STONE

A Republican political consultant, Stone was a campaign adviser to Trump and continued talking to him even after leaving the campaign.

 Do you remember when Trump accused Ted
Cruz Dad’s with having something to do with Kennedy’s Assassination?
It’s my idea he got the idea from above. Just a guess.
adamfoxie blog
Stone raised eyebrows last year when he claimed on Twitter to have knowledge about information WikiLeaks planned to release about stolen emails related to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. “Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done,” he wrote in October, appending the hashtag “#WikiLeaks.”

This month Stone acknowledged he communicated through Twitter with “Guccifer 2.0,” the online persona that posted the DNC emails. U.S. officials believe Guccifer 2.0 is linked to Russia. Stone says he corresponded through direct message only briefly and that it was “completely innocuous.” Stone has also denied communicating with Russia’s government or with Russian intelligence.


Washington Post as Source

March 13, 2017

Bannon, a Man Without Residency Fixated in Insurgency in This Country



 Steve Bannon seen having fun with his half his age buddy



In the three years before he became Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon lived as a virtual nomad in a quest to build a populist political insurgency. 
No presidential adviser in recent memory has followed such a mysterious, peripatetic path to the White House. It was as though he was a man with no fixed address.
He owned a house and condo in Southern California, where he had entertainment and consulting businesses, a driver’s license and a checking account. He claimed Florida as his residence, registering to vote in Miami and telling authorities he lived at the same address as his third ex-wife. 
At the same time, he routinely stayed in Washington and New York as he engineered the expansion of Breitbart News and hosted a live Breitbart radio program. By 2015, Bannon stayed so often at Breitbart’s townhouse headquarters on Capitol Hill that he kept a picture of a daughter on a mantle piece, beneath a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. 
Bannon told a friend that year he was living in multiple cities, including Washington, New York, London and Miami, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post.
The issue of Bannon’s legal residency has been simmering since last summer, shortly after he became chief executive of Trump’s campaign. The Guardian reported in an Aug. 26 story that he was registered to vote at a then-vacant house and speculated that Bannon may have signed an oath that he was a Florida resident to take advantage of the state’s lack of state income taxes.
In California, where Bannon had lived and owned property for more than two decades, income tax can exceed 12 percent.
Bannon has not responded to repeated requests by The Washington Post to discuss the matter. Two Post reporters sought to independently verify his residency claims, using a wide array of publicly available information. 
They obtained utility bills, court records, real estate transactions, state driver reports and the checks he wrote to pay municipal taxes in California. They interviewed neighbors, spoke with landlords and tracked his Breitbart-related activity. In the digital age, when most Americans leave a clear footprint of their whereabouts, Bannon left a meandering trail filled with ambiguity, contradictions and questions. The Post found that Bannon left a negligible footprint in Florida. He did not get a Florida driver’s license or register a car in the state. He never voted in Florida, and neighbors near two homes he leased in Miami said they never saw him. His rent and utility bills were sent to his business manager in California. 
Bannon’s former wife occupied the premises, according to a landlord and neighbors.
At the same time Bannon said he was living with his ex-wife, she was under investigation for involvement in a plot to smuggle drugs and a cellphone into a Miami jail, a law enforcement document obtained by The Post shows. 
The Post learned that state prosecutors in Miami have an active investigation into Bannon’s assertions that he was a Florida resident and qualified to vote in the state from 2014 to 2016. In late August, investigators subpoenaed Bannon’s lease of a Coconut Grove home and other documents. They also contacted the landlords of that home and another that Bannon leased nearby, and sought information from a gardener and handyman who worked at one of the homes, according to documents and interviews.
Because state laws do not clearly define residency, making a false registration case can be difficult. 
California connection
A former investment banker and Hollywood producer, Bannon lived in California when he took a turn toward politics nearly a decade ago. 
He had a condo in Los Angeles and a house just to the south in Laguna Beach, in Orange County. In 2010, he told Orange County election officials that he wanted to become a “permanent absentee voter” and have all ballots mailed to his Laguna Beach home.
In 2011, Bannon produced and directed a political documentary about Sarah Palin for the Victory Film Project, a company in Sarasota, Fla. He is listed as a manager of the company in Florida corporate records. 
In March 2012, with the death of founder Andrew Breitbart, Bannon became executive chairman of the Los Angeles-based Breitbart News, which was expanding its operations to Washington.  Bannon was still a resident of California, records show. In the November 2012 elections, he voted in Orange County by absentee ballot. That same month, he renewed his California driver’s license for five years.
But in his subsequent travels across the country, his living situation became more complicated. The details gathered by The Post create uncertainty about where exactly he was spending the bulk of his time.
On Feb. 9, 2013, Bannon and Diane Clohesy, his former third wife, signed a lease application for a three-bedroom house on Opechee Drive in a lush Miami neighborhood with palm trees and Spanish-style homes. 
Bannon signed as “applicant,” and Clohesy signed as “applicant’s spouse.”
The two were married in 2006, when Bannon was 53 and Clohesy was 36. They divorced in California in 2009. She had moved to Florida in 2008, “starting a new life in Miami,” Bannon said in court papers during the divorce. But the two remained in touch, and she worked on three political documentaries he directed in 2011 and 2012. 
Bannon told his new landlords that he would be splitting his time between California and Florida, according to interviews The Post conducted with the property owners. Bannon and Clohesy both signed the two-year lease, records show.
The lease application said Bannon was “relocating from California.” But Devin Kammerer, the real estate agent who represented Bannon and Clohesy, said he never met Bannon in person, and only sent him listings by email.
“It was Diane who made the decisions about where she wanted to be, and she’d send over listings to Steve for his approval,” Kammerer said. “Diane was very clear on what she wanted.” 
The $4,900 monthly rent was a big jump for Clohesy, who declared on the lease application that her most recent apartment had cost her $950 a month, documents show. But by his own account, Bannon could afford it. 
He stated on the application that he earned $750,000 a year as chairman of Breitbart News Network, a figure that has not been previously reported. He also earned $270,000 as executive chairman of Arc Entertainment, a film distribution company based in Santa Monica, Calif. 
In addition, Bannon received about $100,000 in salary that year as part-time chairman of the Government Accountability Institute, a new nonprofit charity in Tallahassee, according to filings with the Internal Revenue Service. Bannon, two Breitbart writers and other conservative activists had launched the organization a year earlier and it produced reports and books that were promoted by Breitbart. Bannon claimed he worked 30 hours a week at GAI, according to IRS filings. Just weeks after signing the Opechee Drive lease, Bannon launched “Breitbart News Sunday with Stephen K. Bannon,” a three-hour program broadcast live Sunday nights from SiriusXM studios in Washington. 
In May 2013, Bannon opened an account in his name for municipal sewer and water service at the Opechee Drive residence, documents show.
The utility account is one of the few public indications of Bannon’s presence in Florida. But Bannon told utility officials to mail the bills to the office of his business manager on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, Calif., according to documents obtained through Florida public records laws.
Four neighbors told The Post they do not recall seeing Bannon at the house.
“I never saw him,” said Steven Chastain, who lived a few doors away on a nearby street. 
“He wasn’t living there,” said Barbara Pope, a longtime resident who often walked her dog on Opechee Drive. “I would have recognized him.”
At the time Bannon was sharing the lease with Clohesy in Opechee, she was apparently involved with another man. Neighbors said they repeatedly saw a man they could not identify at the house. 
She filed for a restraining order against Jose A. Cabana in 2012. He filed one against her in May 2013, court records show. She was granted a two-year injunction against him and his complaint was dropped after he failed to appear in court. Cabana was charged with cocaine distribution in November 2013 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He could not be reached for comment.
In October 2013, Clohesy became ensnared in an undercover investigation of a jail guard suspected of smuggling drugs and other contraband to another man, a friend of hers in the Miami-Dade County Pre-trial Detention Center, according to an arrest warrant for the jail guard first reported by the the Miami New Times.
Investigators eavesdropping on a phone call between Clohesy and the inmate heard them arrange for her to deliver a “pop tart” — code for a cellphone — along with several ounces of marijuana to a prison guard, the warrant said. Clohesy, who was under surveillance, later met with the guard in a parking lot and handed over the marijuana, the phone and $700 in cash, the warrant said.  Clohesy was confronted by authorities and agreed to cooperate. She told investigators she had known the inmate for more than a year and “maintained a relationship with him through jail visits, correspondence and telephone conversations.”
Efforts to reach Clohesy were unsuccessful. Her brother, Declan, provided The Post with a statement Friday that Bannon had provided “emotional or financial support” to help her recover from drug addiction and depression.
“Steve is a caring and compassionate man and Diane is blessed to still have him in her life,” the statement said. “We appreciate the media respecting my sister’s privacy at this early stage of her recovery.” 
Neighbors of the Opechee Drive home said they remember Clohesy vividly, in part because she had a steady stream of visitors, some of them disruptive. Four neighbors told The Post that they had a community meeting with police to complain about noise at the house and cars speeding from the premises at late hours.
Police records show that officers went to the Opechee address at least three times over several months in 2014. The officers were responding to reports about disturbances, including loud music. In one case, a woman at the home called police around midnight to express fears about an ex-boyfriend who was shining a bright light into the windows. Her name is redacted in the report.
Beatriz Portela, a real estate agent who represented the Opechee landlords, said she also received a call and text messages from neighbors who were anxious about troubling incidents at the house, including speeding vehicles and a car crash. “They were super upset,” Portela said. 
A roving life
On April 2, 2014, more than a year after Bannon signed the lease on the residence in Coconut Grove, he registered to vote in Florida and listed the Opechee Drive address as his legal home. Bannon did not have to show an ID to register. He provided the last four digits of his Social Security number to verify his identity.
One of the allures of Florida is its zero income tax rate for in-state residents. The Post was unable to determine what state Bannon claimed as his primary residence for the purpose of income tax. 
Accountants advise people who work in multiple states to carefully document the number of nights they spend in Florida and maintain records of travel, housing, even of meals. Registering to vote is considered one indication of residency, as is a driver’s license. Under state law, new residents must apply for a license within 30 days if they intend to operate a vehicle. 
Phillip Sroka, a partner at the accounting firm of Morrison, Brown, Argiz and Farra in Miami, said he advises clients who split their time in multiple states to take care to document their presence in Florida for more than six months. That includes airline tickets, restaurant receipts and utility bills.
In an interview with The Post, Sroka said suspicions are raised when individuals have their bills sent outside the states where they claim their residences.
“It gets a little sketchy when you accept employment elsewhere,” he said. “Where it gets a little on the line and subject to interpretation is where you have a lot of other business dealings elsewhere.”
As 2015 approached, Bannon continued his roving life. He rented out his Laguna Beach home and, in January 2015, bought a townhouse as a second home in Pinehurst, N.C. The deed lists Bannon’s mailing address at his money manager’s office in Beverly Hills.
On Feb. 18, 2015, Bannon ended the water and sewer service at Opechee Drive and switched the service to Onaway Drive, less than a half mile away in Coconut Grove, records show. Five days later, Bannon changed his voter registration to Onaway Drive.
The Opechee house was left in disrepair, according to an email between the landlord and Bannon and interviews with the landlord.
Padlocks had been placed on interior doors — or the doors had been removed altogether. A hot tub was destroyed.
“[E]ntire Jacuzzi bathtub seems to have been covered in acid,” the landlord wrote in the February 2015 email to Bannon. 
“I’m out of town,” Bannon replied. “is there any way u can talk with Diane and sort things out ???”
The damage was estimated at more than $14,000, according to an accounting by the landlords, who kept the $9,800 security deposit from Bannon and Clohesy. 
Kammerer, their real estate agent, said he was troubled by the damage.
“I would not work with them after that,” he said. “I would not refer them again as clients of mine.” 
Around this time, Bannon was becoming a fixture at the Breitbart News townhouse location in Washington, nicknamed “the Breitbart Embassy,” hosting parties, meeting with journalists and staying overnight.
In a Bloomberg Businessweek profile in October 2015, a reporter described interviewing Bannon multiple times in January and February at the Breitbart townhouse in Washington.
The article, headlined “This Man Is the Most Dangerous Political Operative in America,” described the building as a “14-room townhouse that [Bannon] occupies.”
“Ordinarily Bannon’s townhouse is crypt-quiet and feels like a museum, as it’s faithfully decorated down to its embroidered silk curtains and painted murals in authentic Lincoln-era details,” the article said. 
On Oct. 26, 2015, SiriusXM announced that Bannon’s weekend radio show would expand its live broadcasts to weekday mornings from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. from studios in Washington and New York. Donald Trump was a guest on the inaugural show Nov. 2.
Five months later, Bannon shut off sewer and water service at the Onaway address in Miami. The house remained uninhabited for months.
Three neighbors interviewed by The Post said they were confident Bannon had not lived at the home.
“I often saw Diane,” said Joseph “J.L.” Plummer, a prominent Miami resident who lived next door and was a city commissioner for nearly 30 years. “I never saw him.”
In mid-August, Bannon became chief executive of the Trump campaign. As he was assuming control, Bannon changed the address on his Florida voter registration records. On Aug. 19, he signed an oath that he now lived at the home of a longtime business associate in Nokomis, Fla., in Sarasota County. 
The questions about Bannon’s residency emerged Aug. 26, when the Guardian wrote that Bannon had been registered to vote at a vacant house — the Onaway address in Miami.
The local NBC station in Miami reported that the state attorney’s office had requested Bannon’s voter records from county election officials. 
At least two people filed complaints about Bannon with the Florida Department of State, claiming he had committed voter fraud by asserting he was a resident, documents show. In October, the department said the complaints did not merit an investigation. 
 That month, Bannon registered to vote in New York from a Manhattan condo overlooking Bryant Park and later cast an absentee ballot in the presidential election. Because he was registered in two places, he was later removed from Florida’s voter rolls.
Under Florida law, it is a third-degree felony to provide false information on a voter registration application. It is punishable by up to five years in prison. First-time offenders are rarely given more than probation, something that could also lead to the loss of a security clearance.
Officials from the State Attorney’s Office for Miami-Dade County, which is led by an elected Democrat, declined to provide details about their probe into Bannon’s residency claim. In denying a Post request for documents about the investigation, officials cited confidentiality rules for “active criminal investigative information.”
Spokesman Ed Griffith said, “At this point it is not over.”
But proving wrongdoing in Bannon’s case could be difficult because state law does not clearly define residency, according to an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

March 11, 2017

Trump Fires Preet Bharara, The Sheriff of Wall Street






  From the “Sheriff of Wall Street” to the man whose anti-corruption crusade put “Albany on Trial,” Preet Bharara has earned many nicknames during his uncommonly long tenure as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. As one of the rare federal prosecutors invited by President-elect Donald Trump to remain in office, Bharara is poised to see his legacy evolve again.
 Bharara’s office declined to comment on this story, but a onetime federal judge who presided over several of Bharara’s cases noted in an interview just how unusual this development is.
 “I am surprised because typically, when a new president comes in, all of the U.S. attorneys in the country resign,” said Shira Scheindlin, now in private practice at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. “It’s just the standard protocol. They all resign, and then generally, the incoming president does ask a few to stay. But mostly, they’re replaced. And that’s sort of the way politics is.”
 If Bharara stays on through Trump’s first term, he will become the longest-running U.S. attorney that the Southern District of New York has ever had.
 After meeting the president-elect in Trump Tower after the election, Bharara voiced a theory as to why Trump let him say on. “Presumably because he’s a New Yorker, and is aware of all this office has done over the past seven years,” Bharara said.
 But leading figures in New York’s legal community have found that explanation incomplete.
 “He says, ‘I’m kept on because I’m so good,’” Scheindlin said in a phone interview. “I understand that, but there have been many other good U.S. attorneys during the years who have not been kept on. So, I’m sure Mr. Trump had his reasons, but I can’t divine them.”
 Scheindlin, who herself is working on a project opposing Trump’s immigration agenda, noted that one has only to remember the prosecutors who investigated President Richard Nixon if they think Bharara could parlay his work against corruption and white-collar crime in New York City into meaningful check on the Oval Office. 
The Man is Busting Wall St
 On the same morning of his Nov. 30 meeting with Bharara, Trump vowed to settle concerns of interest conflicts by leaving his business “in total.” But the president-elect has since backpedaled from that position several times, leaving a role for his children to operate his organization while he continues to profit from it in a so-called “half-blind” trust.
 With all the hallmarks of a burgeoning kleptocracy in motion, Trump’s brand scored a public-relations coup by keeping an anti-corruption watchdog like Bharara at the Department of Justice.
 Bharara opened up his insider investigation into the Galleon Group, then-headed by billionaire Raj Rajaratnam, shortly after President Barack Obama appointed him in 2009. The probe netted more than 60 indictments – followed by a wave of convictions – against the fund’s executives.
 Major networks like ABC and CBS dubbed Bharara the “Sheriff of Wall Street.” Time magazine ran Bharara’s face on the cover, declaring “This Man Is Busting Wall Street.”
 The prosecutor’s aura of invincibility withstood even the fact that criminal prosecution eluded each of the major banks behind the 2008 mortgage fraud crisis that tanked the global economy.
 Attorney General Eric Holder took most of the heat for this, accused of treating some CEOs as too big to jail. The name “Preet” meanwhile became media shorthand for aggressive prosecution, a reputation that grew as Bharara set his sights on New York’s most powerful legislators: then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
 As those cases churned, Bharara got a silver-screen treatment in the Showtime series “Billions,” in which actor Paul Giamatti plays a fierce prosecutor modeled after him.
 Meanwhile appellate court decisions have threatened to chip away at some of his accomplishments. The Second Circuit narrowed the definition of insider trading in the case of United States v. Newman, and it remains to be seen how the Supreme Court’s exoneration of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell will affect Bharara’s political-corruption legacy. The high court did tighten securities law closer to its former strength in United States v. Salman.
 ‘Law and Order’ and the Holder Memo
 Trump earned a reputation on the campaign trail for condensing important issues of policy into catchphrase form, swapping facts for visual cues. On immigration, “we’re gonna build a wall.” On his brutish treatment of women, “Just Rosie O’Donnell.” For criminal-justice reform, Trump had “law and order,” a phrase that cues its own sound effect of most television-owning voters.
 Portraying Bharara as a good fit for this stance, Scheindlin contrasted the prosecutor’s cases against the Obama administration’s efforts to combat mass incarceration.
 To this end in 2010, the Department of Justice issued what is known as the Holder memo. So named for the former attorney general, the memo instructed federal prosecutors not to default to the heaviest charging and sentencing decisions in drug cases. Scheindlin remembered that Bharara’s prosecutors tended to ignore that advice, not only in narcotics cases.
 “When I was on the bench all those years, his assistants routinely would ask for the highest sentence that they could ask for,” she said. “They were not lenient, and they would not ask that the judge exercise her discretion.”
 One of those cases involved Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, now serving the second decade of his sentence for trying to illegally sell weapons of mass destruction to U.S. agents posing as Colombian guerrillas.
 Bout had been vilified in a Hollywood movie as “The Lord of War” and in nonfiction as “The Merchant of Death” for his long record arming foreign warlords, dictators and militants.
 Though Bharara’s prosecutors wanted Bout locked up for life, Scheindlin took issue with the U.S. government’s sting operation that ultimately nabbed the notorious arms trafficker.
 Indeed the Colombian guerrillas Bout thought he was arming were undercover agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration. There is also no law in Bout’s native Russia that would have barred him from selling weapons to actual Colombian militants.
 After a jury convicted him, Scheindlin dealt Bout the lowest allowable sentence: 25 years.
  Viktor Bout deplanes after arriving at Westchester County Airport on Nov. 16, 2010, in White Plains, New York. Bout was extradited from Thailand to the U.S. to face terrorism charges after a final effort by Russian diplomats to have him released failed. (Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice)
“Even historically, sting operations do give judges pause,” Scheindlin noted.
 In another federal trial that stemmed from a sting operation, the FBI offered four residents of a poverty-stricken New York community $250,000 if they would agree to blow up a synagogue and military airbase. Agents intercepted the plot that they created, and a jury rejected the men’s entrapment defense.
 Bharara’s request for a life sentence for the so-called Newburgh Four earned harsh criticism from the judge in that case, Colleen McMahon, a former colleague of Scheindlin’s who is now the chief federal judge of the district.
 McMahon had skewering the prosecutors for using tactics that she believe fell just short of illegality, and Scheindlin voiced similar objections.
 “It’s a technique that is of concern because you can target who you want to target,” Scheindlin said. “You can decide who you want to lure in.”
 In the narcotics realm, Bharara’s office brought a string of prosecutions targeting Latin American leaders and their families, including a former Guatemalan president and the son of presidents of Suriname and Honduras.
 Recently Bharara’s team won the cocaine-trafficking convictions of two nephews of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, after a jury rejected claims that the charges were politically motivated.
 His office has defended strong sentences for pushers of especially dangerous drugs, deploying the “death-resulting” statute against dealers of fentanyl-laced heroin that has killed addicts. The statue carries anywhere between a 20-year and life sentence.
Preet Bharara’s Digital Drug War
 Lindsay Lewis, an attorney who assisted in the defense of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, went toe-to-toe against Bharara in a case that involves the digital front of the War on Drugs. 
A little more than a block away from where that trial took place, there is a coffee shop called the Silkroad. Like Ulbricht’s website, the cafe is named after the ancient trade route that began with the Han dynasty two centuries before the common era.
 Lewis agreed to meet there — “reluctantly,” she joked of the location — to discuss the case at length and the significance of Bharara’s extended tenure.
 Ulbricht is now serving a life sentence for operating an underground drug website on the so-called darknet.
 “The pursuit of his case and the way the office prosecuted that case is a suggestion of nothing short of the hardest stance on drugs that we can possibly imagine,” said Lewis, who last year became a director on the board of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. She spoke for this article in her individual capacity.
 Like Scheindlin, Lewis saw Bharara’s administration as out of step with Attorney General Holder instructions to pursue fairer sentences on a case-by-case basis.
 “Long sentences for low-level, non-violent drug offenses do not promote public safety, deterrence or rehabilitation,” the Holder memo says.
 Though Silk Road had been no small operation — prosecutors estimated more than $1 billion in sales through the website — Lewis emphasized that Ulbricht himself had not been accused of being a dealer.
 At Ulbricht’s appeal, U.S. Circuit Judge Christopher Droney appeared troubled by the 32-year-old’s life sentence.
 “It is unusual for a young man in his early 30s with no criminal record, who himself was not dealing drugs, except some mushrooms at one point, at least there was some evidence that suggested that, to receive a life sentence,” Droney said in October.
 Lewis described such severe sentences as par for course at Bharara’s office.
 “Even after the supposed reform, his assistants weren’t give the quality and kinds of offers that I would have expected to have been given after that mandate,” she said.
 To his credit, Bharara vigorously pursued the goals of Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division with respect to clamping down on prison guards abusing inmates. His office reached a settlement reforming New York City’s Rikers Island and recently won the conviction of a guard who killed an inmate.
 Like many observers, Lewis expects reforms like these to be dismantled if Sen. Jeff Sessions becomes the next attorney general, as is widely expected.
 “I fear that this alignment, Preet Bharara and Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump, it’s essentially the end of criminal justice reform, and that’s a crazy and unbelievable thing to say when you think about the fact that really we just got started,” she said.
 As for Trump’s vision for the War on Drugs, the president-elect reportedly praised the approach of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, accused of supporting death squads behind hundreds of extrajudicial killings. Sessions, whose confirmation hearing started Tuesday, once remarked that his only objection to the Ku Klux Klan was their members’ marijuana use.
  ‘I Want to Surveil’
 Legal observers also find similarities between Trump’s campaign rhetoric on the subjects of surveillance and encryption and Bharara’s record in these areas.
 Rhetorically, Bharara and Trump could not be farther apart on encryption technology. The U.S. attorney typically opts for the lawyerly rhetoric of balancing privacy and security in his public statements, whereas Trump fully embraced the role of Big Brother when discussing immigration at a rally in late 2015.
 “I want to surveil,” Trump said. “I want surveillance of these people that are coming in, the Trojan horse, I want to know who the hell they are.”
 Even if Bharara’s public statements are more measured, his office chafes at any practical constraints on its ability snoop. Perhaps the most well-known case involved prosecutors attempting to force Microsoft to turn over emails stored in Dublin servers.
 The communications involved a target of Bharara’s drug investigation, but, rather than cooperate with the Irish government, his prosecutors tried to bypass the diplomatic process through a hybrid warrant-subpoena under the Stored Communications Act.
 A federal judge sided with the prosecutors, but Microsoft quashed the request on appeal. The company’s president called the ruling “major victory for the protection of people’s privacy rights under their own laws rather than the reach of foreign governments.”
 Working blocks away from Ground Zero, Bharara frequently raises the specter of a spectacular attack to argue about the need for prosecutors to “peek” into private communications.
 “There are moments when reasonable people can appreciate and understand that there are people who want to slaughter all of you, and the people who are trying to protect against that are doing so in good faith,” Bharara told the Wall Street Journal in June. “They’re not trying to be Big Brother, and there should be a reasonable way for rational people to figure out what that balance is.”
 For attorney Fred Jennings, a prominent privacy advocate at the firm Tor Ekeland, Bharara has embraced FBI Director James Comey’s “scaremongering” theory of encryption that terrorists have been “Going Dark.”
 Jennings noted that the evidence does not support law enforcement’s dire warnings.
 Of the more than 4,100 state and federal wiretaps reported in 2015, only seven could not be read because of encryption, according to the most recent report.
 In a study titled “Don’t Panic,” researchers at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society said that fighting encryption in the name of national security would be like poisoning a restaurant to catch a terrorist.
 “Yes, we might get lucky and poison a terrorist before he strikes, but we’ll harm all the innocent customers in the process,” the 37-page report states. “Weakening encryption for everyone is harmful in exactly the same way.”
 Echoing this argument, Jennings noted that weakening encryption — through “back doors,” as some law-enforcement officials advocate — could have repercussions for critical infrastructure that depends upon strong security. The trend in law enforcement to advocate for “backdoor” entry into electronics could have unintended repercussions, he added.
 “When you talk about mandating backdoor platforms, you’re also talking about bank data, credit card transactions, things that we encrypt and communicate with everyday in a way that is largely transparent to the end user,” Jennings said.
 Asked about Trump’s ability to exploit surveillance against political rivals, Jennings told an anecdote of his own human-rights work, as a lawyer observing the attempted coup last year on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
 Seeking to protect their plans, the coup plotters turned to the chat platform WhatsApp, whose parent company Facebook had recently introduced end-to-end encryption. The military officers reportedly named their group “Yurtta sulh,” Turkish for peace at home, but the Erdogan government discovered their communications and cracked down harshly on the plotters.
 “There were quite a few communication records that were pulled from a chat platform that I suspect the developers never thought of a case of someone in a repressive regime who would round up all of those contacts and do who-knows-what to them,” Jennings said.

Court House News   


March 10, 2017

Trumps Chooses Openly Gay Christian as NATO Ambassador


The BIG question is: Is this how Trump feels about Rick Grenell or about NATO?


 

President Trump has chosen open homosexual and “gay Christian” advocate Rick Grenell to be the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, according to several news reports.

The appointment, not yet confirmed by the White House, would make Grenell the highest-ranking open homosexual serving in the Trump administration.

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is the alliance of Western states formed in the Cold War to contain and defend against Soviet Communism. The U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO is commonly called the U.S. Ambassador to NATO. Grenell would replace Douglas Lute, who held the position from 2013 until Trump's inauguration.

Grenell, 50, is a Republican foreign policy expert, former spokesman for three U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations from 2001 to 2008, and a FOX News contributor. In the last eight years, he could often be heard on the network strongly criticizing Obama’s foreign and defense policy as weak and incompetent.

But there is another side to Grenell: “gay” advocate. As LifeSiteNews reported after he was floated for Ambassador to the UN (a job that eventually went to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley), Grenell advocates for homosexual “marriage” as a “conservative” issue. He criticizes “loud religious right activists” who oppose homosexuality and touts Trump’s uniquely pro-LGBT credentials as a Republican. He was an early Trump supporter.

On LGBT issues, Trump has disappointed social conservatives by a series of actions that include reinstating an Obama executive order forcing federal contractors to have pro-LGBTQ policies; proclaiming that the homosexual “marriage” issue is “settled” in the courts; and appointing top advisers like Betsy DeVos and Anthony Scaramucci who are pro-homosexual.

But Trump’s recent reversal of Obama’s intrusive “transgender” school mandate thrilled conservatives of every stripe.

“Gay Christian”?

Grenell, who lives in Los Angeles, reportedly has a long-term homosexual partner, Matt Lashey. Grenell is pro-life and has worked over the years to help pro-life advocates at the UN, according to one veteran pro-life advocate involved in international issues.

But when it comes to homosexuality, Grenell calls for greater “tolerance” in the Republican Party despite the party’s clear and longstanding platform language opposing “rights” and “marriage” based on aberrant sex.

In a Feb. 3 podcast with FOX News reporter Shannon Bream, he said, “I am gay, I am a Christian and I am still a man of faith.”

In the interview, Grenell demonstrates precisely the sort of pro-homosexual advocacy that inspires opposition among Christians who accept the age-old biblical proscription against homosexual behavior.  

“I know I was born this way,” he emphatically told Bream. (Social conservatives have long dismissed the “born gay” claim, and in recent years socially liberal researchers and even homosexual activists have joined them in saying the theory is simplistic.)

Grenell told Bream that he grew up in a strongly Christian home and went to an Assemblies of God college. He cited his liberating experience attending Harvard graduate school and talking with the late homosexual pastor Peter Gomes. As the professor of Christian Morals at Harvard Divinity School, Gomes condemned alleged Christian “homophobia” used his prestigious perch to rebut the religious case against homosexuality.

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In the same vein, Grenell told Bream that biblical passages that historically have been interpreted as clearly proscribing homosexual practice actually do not mean that. The first chapter of the New Testament Book of Romans is one such passage.

“For so many Christians that I grew up with, they were focused on verses in the Bible that talked about homosexuality as a negative thing. And when you go back in and actually look at the original words for these verses, it wasn’t about being homosexual at all. It was about being deviant, or a prostitute,” he said. “And so there was no thought that you were going to be able to have a committed [homosexual] relationship.”

Robert Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and the world’s leading academic authority on the Bible and homosexuality from an orthodox (conservative) Christian perspective, specifically rejects Grenell’s thesis that the Bible does not condemn homosexual relationships.

Grenell said he respects Christians who disagree with him and his interpretation of Scripture.

He’s For Religious Liberty

Grenell said in the interview with Bream that he is strongly “for religious liberties.”

“I am somebody in the gay community who pushes and takes a lot of heat for trying to get the gay community to understand that we should not be trying to get people to jump up and down and be happy about the fact that we’re gay,” he said. “We should be demanding equal rights, equal protections, and that’s it.”

“I’m not looking for approval of my life from people,” he said. “I’m looking for equality and protections — just like you’re not looking for me to approve every area of your life.”

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